For the Ex-Wife on the Occasion of Her Birthday


by Thomas P. Lynch

Let me say outright that I bear you no
unusual malice anymore. Nor

do I wish for you tumors or loose stools,

blood in your urine, oozings from any orifice.

The list is endless of those ills I do not pray befall you:

night sweats, occasional itching, PMS,

fits, starts, ticks, boils, bad vibes, vaginal odors,

emotional upheavals or hormonal disorders;

green discharges, lumps, growths, nor tell-tale signs of gray;

dry heaves, hiccups, heartbreaks, fallen ovaries

nor cramps—before, during, or after. I pray you only

laughter in the face of your mortality

and freedom from the ravages of middle age:

bummers, boredom, cellulite, toxic shock and pregnancies;

migraines, glandular problems, the growth of facial hair,

sagging breasts, bladder infections, menopausal rage,

flatulence or overdoses, hot flashes or constant nausea,

uterine collapse or loss of life or limb or faith

in the face of what might seem considerable debilities.

Think of your life not as half-spent but as half-full

of possibilities. The Arts maybe, or

Music, Modern Dance, or Hard Rock Videos.

Whatever, this is to say I hereby recant

all former bitterness and proffer only all the best

in the way of Happy Birthday wishes.

I no longer want your mother committed,

your friends banished, your donkey lovers taken out and shot

or spayed or dragged behind some Chevrolet of doom.

I pray you find that space or room or whatever it is

you and your shrink have always claimed you’d need

to spread your wings and realize your insuperable potential.

Godspeed is what I say, and good credentials:

what with your background in fashions and aerobics,

you’d make a fairly bouncy brain surgeon

or well-dressed astronaut or disc jockey.

The children and I will be watching with interest

and wouldn’t mind a note from time to time

to say you’ve overcome all obstacles this time;

overcome your own half-hearted upbringing,

a skimpy wardrobe, your lowly self-esteem,

the oppression of women and dismal horoscopes;

overcome an overly dependent personality,

stretch marks, self-doubt, a bad appendix scar,

the best years of your life misspent on wifing and mothering.

So let us know exactly how you are once

you have triumphed, after all. Poised and ready

on the brink of, shall we say, your middle years,

send word when you have gained by the luck of the draw,

the kindness of strangers, or by dint of will itself

if not great fame then self-sufficiency.

Really, now that I’ve my hard-won riddance of you

signed and sealed and cooling on the books against

your banks and creditors; now that I no

longer need endure your whining discontent,

your daylong, nightlong carping over lost youth,

bum luck, spilt milk, what you might have been,

or pining not so quietly for a new life in

New York with new men; now that I have been

more or less officially relieved of

all those hapless duties husbanding

a woman of your disenchantments came to be,

I bid you No Deposits, No Returns,

but otherwise a very Happy Birthday.

And while this mayn’t sound exactly like good will

in some important ways it could be worse.

The ancients in my family had a way with words

and overzealous habits of revenge

whereby the likes of you were turned to birds

and made to nest among the mounds of dung

that rose up in the wake of cattle herds

grazing their way across those bygone parishes

where all that ever came with age was wisdom.

Thomas P. Lynch
Picture of Thomas Lynch Thomas Lynch is an essayist, poet and funeral director of Lynch & Sons funeral home in Milford, Michigan.

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